As fall approaches, jobless claims may rise further


The buses that typically travel through Denali National Park are idle in storage yards in the Denali Borough, lined up row after row. Each one represents several jobs lost this year in Alaska’s tourism economy.

Gone are the shifts of drivers, the people who clean the buses, the people who maintain them, the people who sell parts and prepare meal for the bus fleet crews. It’s a snapshot of a tourism industry that has come to a standstill in Alaska, one that has just five fleeting months of employment in a normal year.

Unemployment claims in Alaska in June broke the record books. During a time when there’s usually more work available in the 49th state, Alaskans are struggling with a nearly 12.5 percent unemployment rate average statewide.

Some locales have done better than others — many government workers are enjoying the ability to work from home, for example. But overall unemployment claims tell the story of other families heading into a winter of worry.

Initial filings for unemployment in June totaled 30,580, a nearly 800 percent increase from June of 2019, when there were just 3,413 filings.

Continued filings in June were 600 percent higher than June of 2019: 188,961 in June of 2020 vs. 26,857 last year.

And the number of claims was 572 percent higher year over year: 46,481 this year vs. 6,912 last year.

Unemployment in Alaska is higher than it was during the recession of the late 1980s. Job growth dropped to negative numbers, and wages have slumped, according to the Alaska Department of Labor, where Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter described the situation as “tough.”

This fall and winter will be worse, employers told Must Read Alaska. While in normal years, seasonal workers would leave in mid-September, in this year, there are no seasonal workers. The full-time workers laid off this past spring won’t be coming back until the spring of 2021 at the earliest.

In an indication that workers are leaving the state, the rental vacancy rate is growing and is now 9.2 percent. Juneau has the lowest vacancy rate at 4.4 percent, while Fairbanks has the highest, at 19 percent.

As the fireweed hits its final stage of gossamer plume, Alaskans may be facing economic hardships this winter, as they wait out a pandemic that has destroyed so much of their lives already.


  1. “As the fireweed hits its final stage of gossamer plume, Alaskans may be facing economic hardships this winter, as they wait out a pandemic that has destroyed so much of their lives already.” Yet it is clear that the threat of any Pandemic has been grossly over rated, and that the real threat to the Alaskan economy comes for the Mandates derived from the CDC guidelines. Shutting down “non-essential” businesses is what’s driving down the lives of all those impacted both in our State and in our Nation as a whole. Once people get woke to what is happening, they are realizing that this is part of a greater scheme to “reset” the world economy. Bringing down America is their plan, because we are in the way… No, it’s not about the Virus, it’s about how they can bring down America… And so far, they have proved that they can do it…

  2. Every year in Alaska employment takes a nosedive in the fall. Likely 80% or more of the year’s income for the seasonal Alaskan workforce and small businesses, is during the three months of summer and the two shoulder months, May and September. This year with no summer income to see those ‘seasonal’ workers and businesses through the winter, Alaskans in every situation, business and private, are facing difficulties only read about or imagined in a normal world. This year is different from that normal world. Without aid or a deep pocket, big trouble ahead for Alaskans. Unless you are a ‘public’ employee (10,000 or so in Alaska). The wuhan v was/isn’t about a bug or virus. Most people with an open mind and a want to know can find the truth, without taking any one opinion as fact. Seek and you might find (the truth). The number of people with the desire and, especially the means to do this to Alaska, America and most of the world is very small. What reason? Control. Why? Why did Alexander, Xerxes, various Khans of Mongol origin, Atilla, kings, despots, emperors and empires(don’t forget Hitler, Stalin and Mao), try to do the very same thing. To rule, by any means. The left thinks they are ‘the ones’ to do just that. To them, all is fair to attain that rule over others, for their own good, like it or not. What is happening to our cities, Alaska, America and many countries is not entirely an accident.
    Believe what you may. Look for truth. It’s out there. It is not too late to fix.

  3. WOW! I’m a retired news nut and I was unaware the job situation was this bad. These numbers are…I don’t even have words! And 1 in 5 rentals vacant in Fairbanks? That sounds like Detroit at it’s worst! WOW! (Good reporting Suzanne)

  4. For the last eighty or so years, and maybe before that, for all I know, the Alaska economy can be viewed as a large balloon with several significant leaks in it. Thus, boom cycles will pump a lot of air into the balloon and the balloon will grow larger. But when the boom is over, the air will drain out of the balloon fairly quickly. Many state economies are like this but those that have deep and wide private economies are less cyclical and more resilient. As a general proposition, states with proportionally greater percentages of government spending have thinner and weaker economies than states with proportionally large private economies. The air that has generally been pushed into our balloon has been severely disrupted and the Alaska economy is in rapid retreat which includes depopulation. Many of the people that are leaving are the young and others with prospects for employment elsewhere. Remaining are the old, the dependent and the “unadventurous” shall we say. I have long argued for expanding the private economy through economic diversification and development and, critically, reducing government and corrosive government spending. From my perspective, a large social welfare state with lots of government spending is a ticket for economic stagnation, at best. (Remind anyone of the economic policies of the Obama regime?) Alaska is in for a rough ride. Glad my kids are out of here.

    • J mark, sage words my friend. What we need is a laser focus on development of our resources. At all levels of Government.
      Sorry your kids left, I have 3 out of my 4 here still, it’s tough for them though.
      Keep on commenting!

  5. Not fair to say the rest of the country is in deep dodo like AK. Florida shut down, and is back up and running full bore even with 200 people a day dying from the Kung flu. Herd immunity is beginning to take over and daily new counts are down to 2000. Perhaps people down here are better prepared for a rainy day.

  6. Even without this pandemic Alaska was certain to lose population. Petroleum production has dropped 75%, and very little in the way of production (of anything) has come to replace it. As a matter of fact, while petroleum production was dropping we lost an integrated forest products industry employing 4,000 to produce lumber and pulp for export. Also during that period we gained 200,000 more consumers, with the state population growing by 40%. A re-balancing of production and consumption (of goods produced anywhere but Alaska) has to occur; and of course there will be adverse selection as people who work are more likely to leave and those living on transfer payments (or working for state and local government) are more likely to remain. We consume too much and produce too little, and government is the last place we should look to fix that (for example, the City and Borough of Juneau has decided to sell $15 million in bonds to restart the economy). Hopefully the re-balancing will include some increased production rather than coming entirely from population loss. No one is surprised that state government has first spent one-time savings in order to avoid facing economic reality. And the aggregate problem is larger than we are willing to admit, even to ourselves; there is the public employee defined benefit unfunded liability, the huge number of incarcerated people and the dollars they cost, the vast unorganized borough that expects schools, public safety, airports and the like to be paid by state appropriations, and the interest groups that will work hard to shut down and dismantle TAPS should the White House change hands this November. Whether or not you believe the Chinese flu is real, government spending associated with the pandemic cannot last forever. We are already seeing 7-figure lobbyists and 6-figure school administrators sell out to become renters, presumably to leave AK at some point. Don’t expect government economists and chamber of commerce cheerleaders to give us much guidance here. And the Anchorage mayor drives by vacant office and retail space every day, looking neither left nor right as he focuses on spending only on the homeless.

  7. Those who can “work from home” better understand that if the rest of us cant work or find work they will soon be joining us. Remember that during the Great Depression that most people lost their homes to “The Tax Man” not the banks. Until they can convince people to get back on “The Boat” tourism is not coming back. Oil and gas is in a dismal state. Mining Logging Fishing is not much better. State spending must be brought under control. How or by whom is unclear.

  8. For the past 40 years Alaska got addicted to easy money from taxation of one thing: oil. No taxes. PFD checks to every man, woman and child whose been here one year. And now the easy money is going away. Every citizen is getting subsidized by the government. Increased population means less free public services and smaller amounts of free money. So unlike any other state, more jobs simply means more people dividing up the pie. The solutions are limited. Make citizens start paying for what they need. This means taxing people, which will be resisted no matter what. The other option is a huge decrease in population, resulting in less people expecting to receive government services for free plus a big check from the state every years. When Governor Eastman’s second term ends in 2034, the population of Alaska will be about what it was in 1974. From deprivation to wealth to poverty in just 60 years.

    • Sorry, but I may not have made my points very well for you. No state or muni can replace lost output by exchanging money back and forth, such as with an income tax. We need to produce something to sell, to replace lost oil production if you like, in order to pay the Boeing machinist, the dairy maid producing that Costco milk, and the Subaru assembler; an income tax serves to work against that. We can only afford as much state and muni government as our economic product can pay; you and I exchanging $20 bills here in Alaska doesn’t do that. We have a very high level of per person consumption and a very low level of production. Moreover, all state taxes are now very inefficient due to the high standard deduction, and due to the cap on deducting state and local taxes, in the Internal Revenue Code. A state income tax coupled with the PFD, which is ordinary income on the 1040, would be doubly inefficient. An income tax hits hardest the very people we most need – the producers of goods and services Alaska needs to sell to the rest of the world so we can retain as much of our current consumption as possible. I suppose a case can be made for a state sales tax to the extent it would reduce consumption of goods produced outside of Alaska, but by and large our problem is we built too much government with petroleum revenue, and now we cannot afford that government. We also accumulated unpaid obligations (debts) from the petroleum era (as I mentioned), and those go unrecognized/unmet each year when state and muni governments do their budgeting. I agree that Alaskans need to pay for what they need, but I do not believe that filtering the payment through government is efficient or intelligent. Finally, when Alaska had an income tax (which I paid, before the PFD) we were OK with that because wages for people with drive and grit were fully 40 percent higher than the same job paid in OR and WA (no longer the case). In saying that Alaskans are subsidized by government I think you may have instead meant to say that government is a poor redistributor of income, and I agree with that.

  9. Please do not blame COVID for the dire straits many of Alaska’s families are encountering. This is the direct fault of lock downs and business closings. The policies enacted by the shut-em-down representation in office in many places in Alaska are shepherding the state into insolvency. It’s evil inherent and the people are rising against it.

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